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Thought for the Day : Thursday 24 September

Thought for the Day by Bob Shaw

Readings: 1 Kings 11:1-13 and Acts 17:16-34

Today’s NT reading gives us the famous speech Paul made to a group of intellectuals in Athens. He certainly rose to the occasion seizing the opportunity to proclaim Jesus as the one who reveals the true identity of the ‘unknown god’ as inscribed on a Greek altar at the Areopagus. We can understand how Paul the apostle managed to acquire saintly status although we know from St. Paul’s own teaching (1 Cor 6:2 and Rom 1:6-7) that all Christians are saints simply by virtue of our membership together in a spiritual body with Christ at its head. Nevertheless, we are aware that a good number of Christian men and women are now remembered specifically by name as worthy of the title ‘Saint’. As good examples of this we might think of Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Francis of Assisi and of course not forgetting Chad of Mercia and Far Headingley.

 But there are other Christian saints who are less well known yet equally worthy of our attention.  I wonder how many of you are aware that today, 24 September, is the Feast Day of St. Robert of Knaresborough. He lived over 800 years ago. Being the son of the Mayor of York he certainly had a privileged upbringing but he gave that up and spent most of his life as a hermit living in a cave by the River Nidd near Knaresborough. It was there that he gave a saintly example of prayer, simplicity and compassion towards those around him who were most in need of support. He became well known and attracted pilgrims from across Europe. The Pope himself acknowledged his saintliness. King John also once paid him a visit in the company of the Constable of Knaresborough Castle. It was there that they found Robert at prayer and refusing to be disturbed! When he was pressed Robert produced an ear of corn and said ‘Is your power such, my Lord King, that you can make something like this out of nothing’? When King John admitted that he couldn’t Robert replied that his devotion was given first of all to the One who could, a not too subtle reprimand to the king for disturbing his time of prayer! Robert wasn’t afraid to speak his mind so he was a true Yorkshireman, a worthy candidate indeed for the title ‘Patron Saint of Yorkshire’.

The saints still have much to teach us about our Christian priorities, not least during this challenging time of pandemic and also during this month of Creation-tide by encouraging us to become more worthy stewards of the world God has made for us to care for responsibly and to share equally. I hope this prayer will help to focus our thoughts, words and actions today and don’t forget to make a pilgrimage to St. Robert’s Cave next time you’re in Knaresborough, just half an hour’s walk down Abbey Road.  

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 23 September

Thought for the Day by Toby Parsons (All Hallows)

Readings: 1 Kings 10:1-25 and Acts 17:1-15

Making an impression

Wow!  That’s amazing!

Gazing up in admiration at the intricate arches of a historic building.  Looking out in wonder at the majestic mountains rising to snow-capped peaks.  Listening with rapt attention to the inspired oratory of a great speaker.

There are things that make us stop in awe and wonder.

When the Queen of Sheba met Solomon in today’s passage from 1 Kings, she was amazed by his wisdom and wealth.  And she was a person of high position herself, who brought quantities of gold and spices that in turn amazed her hosts.  You can imagine a warmth and friendliness to the visit, even if expressed with regal restraint.  There was perhaps something of a mutual admiration society – two powerful people aware of their riches and greatness basking in shared glory.

The contrast with Paul’s visit to Thessalonica in the verses from Acts 17 is notable.  He reasoned with his hosts, using words not physical gifts, and some people responded positively.  But others formed a mob and started a riot, forcing the visitors from the city.

Solomon was indeed blessed by God.  We read of the wisdom of his judgements.  We hear of the overpowering presence of the Lord at the dedication of the temple.  So on one level it’s neither surprising nor inappropriate to be impressed by David’s successor. 

But if we just admire the man himself, or wonder at the physical splendour of his kingdom, we may lose sight of God’s presence in the heart of it.  But it’s that core which we need to focus on.

Sometimes God’s goodness and love may be obvious – it may overpower our senses through what we see and hear.  But sometimes it may be hidden – just as it was to the people of Thessalonica, in a new message shared by a visitor.

What amazes us as we go about our lives?  What makes an impression on us?

The great and the good?  Physical splendour?  Wisdom and intellect?  The natural world?

We may find God’s presence in all of these, but we have to look beyond our immediate, superficial wonder.  And we need to remember that God can reach out to us in much less impressive ways, in the modern version of an itinerant preacher sharing a new message.

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 22 September

Thought for the Day by Janet Lindley (All Hallows)

Readings: 1 Kings 8:63-9.9 and Acts 16:25-40

He had finished. After 20 years meticulous planning and highly skilled workers, building works were complete. A home for his household and a dwelling place for God. 

Well not quite. Construction works had finished and the dedication had been magnificent. Thousands came and were overwhelmed by Gods presence. 

But this wasn’t the whole story, it was the start of a new chapter. God’s presence had filled the temple, but how would they respond in continued worship and action? 

Did Solomon need this reminder from God? It would be easy for Solomon to be a little proud of the achievement. He was, after all, the first to build a temple for God! 

We are all God carriers, reflecting in part the one who made the world in which we live. Our daily lives filled with acts of creation in our studies and work, our actions and activities. 

This is not separate from our worship. God can’t only be found in the temple or in a church, God through the Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us (1 Cor 6:19).  How we inhabit the ordinary day to day and choices, inviting God in, becomes a fragrant offering. 

What would our day-to-day be as worship? Choosing to walk not drive? Seeking inner calm in traffic jams? Looking at the world around us?? Giving thanks for this wonderful creation? 

What will we open to God in the rest of our day? Our cooking the dinner, sorting the recycling, saying hi rather than hurrying on, saying thanks to the delivery driver, paying the bills or responding to that inner prompting to make a call.  

We invite God again into our lives to guide and shape, to breathe new life again.  We offer ourselves and our everyday moments as an act of worship. 

Thought for the Day : Monday 21 September

Thought for the Day by Katherine-Alice Grasham (All Hallows)

Readings: 1 Kings 19:15-end and 2 Timothy 3:14-end

For today’s reflection, I wanted to share again the Black Lives Matter prayers that I shared at All Hallows yesterday, which were written by Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in London, who are part of the Inclusive Church network just like us.

Loving and forgiving God, we come to you today recognising that in matters of ethnicity we have no choice – we are who we have been made to be. Before you we rejoice at our diversity, and our hearts lift at your great vision of a worshipping multitude gathered from every nation, tribe, people and language. But nonetheless we recognise that our present reality is very far from this ideal.

We have each of us been shaped by different forces; some of us have been ground down, whilst others have been built up. Some of us have been worn away, or have become fractured and broken. Some of us have found life a burden rather than a joy. None of us have experienced the perfect life.

Some of us have inherited powerwhilst others of us have inherited powerlessness.

Some of us have been born white, in a world where whiteness confers privilegeOthers of us have been born black, in a world where darker skin carries disadvantage.

We know that this is not the world as you would have it be, but it is our world, and it has been our experience.

None of us asked for our skin colour, none of us asked to be born the heirs of oppression, none of us asked to inherit power or powerlessness.

So before you, and in the name of Jesus Christ who loves all people equally, regardless of ethnicity, gender or social status, we come now to recommit ourselves to your vision of the world.

We come now to pray ‘your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven’, and to offer ourselves once to live out your coming kingdom of equality and justice in our lives, in our churches, and in our communities.

And so we confess our own complicity in the status quo which divides and distorts humanity. As we pray, we ask that you will release us from guilt, and will help us to find ways of laying down the burdens we have inherited.

Help us to discover our true and rightful place within the new humanity created in Christ Jesus. All races together, we confess that we have sinned, and that we have fallen short of the glory of God.

We confess our failures to speak out against injustice. We confess those times when, as individuals and as churches, we have witnessed the fracturing of humanity along ethnic grounds, and yet have remained silent. We confess those times when we have been the powerful ones and have chosen to withhold that power whilst another human suffered.

We confess the sin of racist exclusion, the abuse of power to oppress and demean. May those of us who have ourselves experienced exclusion be the first to speak up for others. May we create spaces for reconciliation.

We pray for our churches. May they become places of reconciliation, where each human soul is valued, and where equality in Christ is a reality in our midst. Forgive us those times where we do not live out our calling as your people. May our churches model the new humanity of Christ to those in the communities where we live.

We pray for our communities. Where there is division, may we bring restoration. Where there is inequality may we bring justice. Where there is powerlessness may we lift up the broken hearted. Where there is damage may we bring healing.

Loving and forgiving God, hear our confession, hear the desires of our hearts to be different, grant us your forgiveness, and remake us according to the likeness of Christ.

Amen.

Sunday Worship 20 September 2020

Today we continued our series in Creation Time: Rhythms of Life on the topic of serving. We were priveleged to be able to welcome Marvina Newton as our guest preacher to tell us all about Black Lives Matter Leeds and how we can be better Black Lives Matter Leeds allies

Thought for the Day : Saturday 19 September

Thought for the Day by Anna Bland (All Hallows)

Readings: 1 Kings 8:1-30 and Acts 15:36-16.5

I enjoyed reading with a little more focus about the Ark of the Covenant being brought to the Temple during the reign of King Solomon (1 Kings 8). After reading it I wanted to pick up on a few key elements of the story that really stood out to me

The Ark was brought to the Temple during the Feast of the Tabernacles which was a feast that commemorated God’s faithfulness in the Israelites’ time in the wilderness. It looks back at their time in slavery and forward to the promised land. The placing of the Ark in the Temple was significant as it was a fulfilment of their hope – God in the Holy of Holies in their Temple. Solomon had waited for months so this celebration could happen during this significant feast that all Jewish males had to come to consider the past, present and future.

Everything in this temple was brand new except for the Ark, it symbolises the continuation of God’s faithfulness to them and their continuing commitment to following the law. A modern example of this could be the opening of Victoria Gate shopping centre in Leeds City Centre with all its grandeur and modern design. Rather than a temple to Mammon this is their long-awaited Temple, the home of God forever. I love the idea the old Ark that has been through the desert with them sitting at the centre of this magnificent modern building, it is symbolic of where they have come from as well as being the earthly throne of God.

Just before Solomon is about to make his speech a cloud fills the room so the priests could not perform their final services. This is God appearing as a cloud as God often does to the Israelites. In the middle of grandeur, tradition and rules I love that God is a disrupting presence as all the busy-ness and duties have to stop because people cannot see through the cloud. Perhaps God is trying to suggest that they all need to take time as individuals to appreciate the moment, stop their busying and see the wonder of what has been achieved: God is palpably with them in the Temple. Hope is fulfilled. How often do we fail to take a moment to appreciate what is happening or what we have achieved? Often people say they can’t remember much of their wedding or other significant days because they were so busy and caught up the detail they fail to take a step back and see that moment in all its fullness.

I think this passage has much to teach us as individuals, church communities and a society about looking at our current context, considering what led us to this time but also to look ahead with hope on a firm footing. The Israelites were re-committing to what has always been core to their identity, appreciating the generations that got them to where they are and had built something to symbolise a new phase. While I am not suggesting we built a Temple, perhaps all of us today could take a couple of minutes to consider:

  • What is core to who we are, what is our Ark at the centre?
  • Name a few key things that have brought us to this present moment?
  • What is our hope for the future?

Sunday 20 September

This Sunday we’re thrilled to welcome Marvina Newton as guest preacher- to tell us all about Black Lives Matter Leeds and how we can be better Black Lives Matter Leeds allies

Do join us at 10.30am on All Hallows Church, Leeds Facebook Live if you’d like to join us / eavesdrop!

We will be continuing our Creation Series of The Rhythm of Life and the theme this week is SERVING. The angle for us will be ‘How can we better SERVE Leeds’ People of Colour as allies?’ Our readings will be from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and Matthew 5:6

Thought for the Day : Friday 18 September

Thought for the Day by Adriaan van Klinken (All Hallows)

Readings: 1 Kings 6:1, 11-28 and Acts 15:22-35

Each other’s prophets

At first sight, there’s very little that our readings for today have in common. In the book of Kings, we read about Solomon building a temple for God, using lots of gold and other beautiful decorations. In the book of Acts, we read about the leaders of the early church being concerned about developments among Christians in Antioch. They sent two representatives, Judas and Silas, with a letter of warning.

Although very different in context and content, both readings remind us that holiness – of a temple, a church, and believers – cannot be taken for granted. It requires constant attention, care and investment of resources.

I was struck by the line in the reading from Acts, which says that Judas and Silas were well-received in Antioch: “being themselves prophets, they said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.”

The letter which the two men carry with them appears to be of a rather moralising tone: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” Yet once they have arrived, they apparently strike a different tone: not just reinforcing the do’s and don’ts, but delivering messages of encouragement that strengthen the believers in their faith.

They could do so, because they are prophets. Prophets are not moral police officers – they do not control whether you follow the latest government guidelines and report you in case of a trespass. Prophets remind us of the bigger picture, of the things that really matter; they bring us back to the basics of faith and truth.

Who are the prophets in our midst today, and how do they encourage us? Also, how could we be a prophet to others, to fellow believers in our church community and in society?

Only when we pay attention to each other, care for one another, and invest our resources in our communal well-being, we can grow in the direction that God wants us to be.

Thought for the Day : Thursday 17 September

Thought for the Day by Tim Ward (St Chad’s)

Readings: 1 Kings 4:29-5.12 and Acts 15:1-21

Hildegard of Bingen

Hello, my name is Hildegard of Bingen. This is my festival day and so, this is my Thought for the Day.  I have written poems, hymns, natural history, music, theology and medical books before, but nothing since 1179.

I was born in 1098 and became a Benedictine nun at 15. I am still famous for my visions, convents and religious writing. My passions also included drawing, medicine, natural history and music.  I based my most famous work “Knowledge of the Ways of the Lord” on 26 of my visions.  After a full, sometimes painful life, I left this earth on 17th September 1179.

I can relate to Solomon in today’s reading from the first book of Kings, Solomon was going to build a temple as the ultimate place of worship.  I had my own struggles moving a convent community to near Bingen on the Rhine.  In Kings we read of all the logistic problems Solomon had working with his neighbour Hiram, who supplied all the cedar and pine logs he wanted.

But the writer shows Solomon had wider interests: he “spoke of trees and plants…about animals, birds, reptiles and fish.”.  I too wrote, and drew about all these things, plants, fishes, trees, birds, quadrupeds, reptiles, medicine, science.

Solomon was, famously the wisest of all men” who composed “3000 proverbs, and more than a thousand songs” As well as books, I wrote a morality play Ordo Virtutum, with women taking the key roles. And also music, I was devoted to sacred music, because it helped:…

“… to build a bridge of holiness between this world and the world of all Beauty and Music.”

Kings from all over the world heard of Solomon’s wisdom and sent people to listen to him.  Well, I saw powerful people too, but did not let them get away lightly: King Henry II, the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and Pope Eugenius III and others got a flea in their ear: they needed to get back to the gospel.  I would have berated Solomon for his use of “forced labour” in the building preparations.

I knew conflict when developing my convents, and Luke, in this chapter of his Acts of the Apostles, details the division in the early church about the status of non-Jewish believers. Ending the distinction Peter says”, We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Peter spoke out in accordance with the vision he’d had on the rooftop in Joppa. I think we both saw creation as one.

So, thank you for letting me write this Thought for the Day. I can relate to Solomon and to Peter with his fellow disciples. I hope that this speaks to you, so you too can begin to “build a bridge of holiness”

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 16 September

Thought for the Day by Katharine Salmon (St Chad’s)

Readings: 1 Kings 3 and Acts 14.8-end

Reflection on the missional leadership in Acts

Acts gives us a glimpse of the challenges faced by the earliest missionaries proclaiming the gospel in a multi-cultural, multi-religious world. The words and deeds of Jesus’ disciples could easily be misunderstood by people with a wholly different set of values.

In Acts we see evidence that there were many wandering wonder-workers in the ancient world. In Samaria, for instance, Philip, Peter, and John encounter a magician named Simon who amazed the people with his magic and whom people believed to have divine power (8:9-11). When Simon sees the Holy Spirit given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offers them money to purchase this gift, earning a sharp rebuke from Peter (8:17-24).

Acts draws a stark contrast between the authentic leadership of apostles and missionaries commissioned by the church and the dubious undertakings of other prophets, magicians, and wonder-workers. Jesus’ disciples are not motivated by personal gain of wealth, power, or status. Indeed, they put themselves at great risk and endure persecution for the sake of the gospel. They know that they cannot control or manipulate the gift of the Holy Spirit, but trust the Spirit to work through them as God sees fit. Their ministries do not draw attention to themselves, but point to the good news of God’s kingdom drawing near in Jesus Christ.

We live in a diverse and pluralistic society with many people who have different values. How do we live in a way that shows that the Christian way is different?